What I Learned from a Month of Healing
This is a pic from after this morning's run. It was, for me, a slow-paced 2.5 miles. A run I typically would've considered a "waste of time". But not this time! This photo and run exemplify so much more than the time or distance will ever show; it is my first time feeling like myself and finally being able to run in over 30 days. One month ago, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. It still sounds crazy to say out loud (or type) – how the hell does that happen!? For those of you thinking to yourself, “by crossing the street while fixated on your phone without realizing a car is coming”, I hear you. However, I was not on my phone. In fact, I had the walk sign and I still looked both ways before crossing the street. Turns out, unfortunately, you can’t control everyone else around you. After spending many more hours than I would’ve liked in emergency rooms over the two days following the accident, I was fortunately released with a healthy physical body but a bit of a bruised-up brain; diagnosed with a concussion. As someone who unfortunately has had her fair share of concussions (this whole failed attempt at a back h andspring on cement floor in 6th grade really seems to keep biting me in the ass), I thought I knew what was ahead of me. A bit of light sensitivity and nausea and a few days of headaches. I thought to myself, “okay, so you have to stay inside the rest of the weekend and just relax, you can do that.” Boy was I in for a surprise.
What I initially thought would be a day or two off from work slowly turned into four and a half weeks on short-term disability and an entire month of March focused on healing. Since the accident I have had a lot, and I mean a lot, of time to reflect on it all. There were moments of calmness, frustration, relaxation, anger, and downright confusion, but throughout it all I focused on the most important thing: I was fortunate enough to be here to feel all these emotions. With my journaling at an all-time high, I took the opportunity to continuously mark down and note all of my thoughts and emotions to, once healed, eventually put it into the post you’re reading right now. It is an odd feeling how grateful I feel to be able to write this; I have a sense of calmness and reflectiveness that I never would have correlated with this situation, but I am taking the ride for as long as it goes. I am also writing this in hopes that anyone else out there suffering from any type of injury or sickness that has thrown their life for a loop can find confidence and encouragement in my story. Unfortunately, recovery is a long road, but here are the lessons I learned along the way.
1. Shit happens, and there is nothing you can do about it.As someone who likes to think that I can control most outcomes, especially those regarding massively important moments of my life, it is hard to accept the fact that sometimes life is completely out of your control. Something I really struggled with during this past month was accepting the fact that life isn’t fair. Yes, it fucking sucks that I did nothing wrong and got hit by a car and had my life turned upside down for a bit, but, unfortunately, nothing I can do can change that. I looked both ways. I had the cross walk. I wasn’t on my phone. I was paying attention. Yet still, bam (literally). Instead of holding on to this anger at both the situation and the driver, I came to the realization that the frustration and desire to punch someone, or thing, was bringing nothing to the table; especially not positivity. In order to heal, you must accept the circumstances of the situation, and move on. Dwelling can only weigh you down.
2. It is okay to put yourself first, cancel plans, and live a “day by day” mentalityI love my calendar. I am someone that has a book I bring with me everywhere and handwrite everything in. It is anally organized, I won’t deny it. Not only does cancelling plans inherently make me extremely uncomfortable and guilty, but it also requires me to scribble out what has already been written down; something that irritates me more than it probably should. (To give you a real-life example: I could not stop apologizing to my friend who I was supposed to hang out with the night of the accident because I was stuck in the hospital instead of heading over to her apartment. I actually felt guilty about it. Who does that!?) I am constantly telling myself that I should live my life in a more “day by day” manner. I admire friends who don’t know what they are doing next week, or don’t have anything planned for an entire weekend, but I have always accepted that I am just not one of those people. Turns out, I can be. Not easily, and definitely with some kicking and screaming in the beginning, but I accepted the fact that canceling plans is, sometimes, okay. Your friends and family won’t hate you; you won’t miss out on anything; the world isn’t going anywhere. Sometimes, you have to put the most important person first – yourself!
3. Spending time without technology (cough cough Instagram) is extremely refreshingI’m a millennial. I sometimes hate to admit it, but by default of birth year (‘90s baby), and my technology addiction, it is a fact. Like people the rest of my age, and unfortunately, majority of the population, I am constantly grabbing for my phone or computer for no apparent reason other than to flood my brain with waves of unnecessary information. We thrive on over stimulating ourselves; it is the new normal. That is, however, until even just the idea of looking at a screen makes you feel like someone is hammering between your eyebrows and on both temples somehow at the same time. As soon as I noticed how detrimental technology was to my symptoms, I immediately made the decision to dock it for the upcoming week. No texting, no surfing the internet, no blog editing, and most importantly, no scrolling the deep hole of Instagram. As much as I’d like to say I’m not someone who goes on social media a lot, this was a serious reality check. Good Lord, I’m addicted. It is an odd feeling to finally acknowledge and recognize how often we reach for our phones for no good reason other than habit, boredom, or loneliness. Turns out, taking time off these vices feels pretty freaking amazing. For starters, you are able to fully enjoy the company of others, giving them your full attention instead of having one ear in the conversation and one eye on the screen of another. Also, you begin to live more in the moment instead of the warp hole of “I’m doing this, but they are doing that, and that looks much better.” I encourage you to take a step back, put down your phone, close your laptop, and truly engage with those around you; you will be surprised by what you are missing!
4. I take being healthy on a day-to-day basis for grantedYou know when you have a cold and you’re unable to breathe out of your nose and you think to yourself, “God, I forget what it feels like to be able to breathe normally. What is life like without being congested? I honestly don’t remember.” If you’re like me, this happens every time you are sick. However, whenever I finally turn the corner to being healthy again, it’s as if I totally wash away that curiosity and desire for normalcy and begin to take the ability to breathe easily for granted again. During days when we are, for the most part, “healthy”, we so often focus on the small things that could feel or work better instead of accepting, and thanking whoever may be in charge, that we are alive, able to breathe, and functioning. After a month of living in somewhat of a concussion induced fog, so call it, I feel I finally have a deep appreciation for how blessed I am to be healthy on a daily basis. Unlike every week long cold I’ve had in the past, I am promising to myself that I will hold on to this feeling of gratitude in the future.
5. Sometimes you have to stop caring for everyone else and allow them to care for youAlthough I thoroughly enjoy taking care of people, I have a really hard time allowing people to take care of me. I do not like to feel babied, I’m not great at expressing my emotions when I am frustrated and continuously asked “how are you doing?”, when people express how badly they feel for me I confuse it with pity, and I constantly try to put on a front to make it seem I am stronger than I may be at that moment. The days immediately following the accident I received tons of calls and messages from people in my life expressing their concerns, gratitude, and offerings to help in any way possible: asking to bring me food, flowers, hugs, ice cream, or anything else they could. I remember turning to my mom feeling somewhat uncomfortable in my skin and asking her to stop reading the messages because I wasn’t sure how to respond. In typical mother-know-all fashion, she told me I needed to accept people’s offerings to take care of me. As much as I hated hearing that declaration, mainly because I knew it was true and was just something I didn’t want to do, she was right. I responded to friends and family allowing them to help in whatever way they wanted to and, guess what, it actually felt great. I was able to take a step back, not be the one constantly trying to fix or mend pieces back together, and allow others to feel heartfelt by doing something I too so enjoy: caring for those they love. Plus, I am never going to complain about having a fully stocked freezer of Van Leeuwens.
6. The world will continue to go on even if you slow downAs much as we’d like to deny it, the world continues to go on without us. I may believe that I play an important factor in many aspects of my life, which I can continue to tell myself, but that doesn’t mean that everything stops when I do. This may sound morbid, but it is not meant to. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself as if I am the only one capable doing of things and, that if I am not able to perform or produce, then I am inherently letting someone down. Whether it be missing work and feeling like my team is unable to pick up my tasks, taking time off Freckled Foodie and feeling the guilt that I am not providing content or recipes for my followers, simple (or not so simple since I am planning a wedding) life tasks, or even following up with friends, I am constantly telling myself that if I am not performing to my normal or best ability then everything around me will come crashing down. Let’s take a second to acknowledge the fact that that statement is crazy; truly and utterly absurd. As important as I’d like to believe I am, the planet continues to spin without me. Harsh? Maybe. True? Definitely. Once we accept the fact that we are actually not responsible for every aspect of everyone’s lives around us, a blanket of stress will be lifted. The pressure that belief puts on one’s self is not only unnecessary, but also extremely heavy. Sure, take responsibility for your actions and take pride in the fact that you make a difference and people rely on you, but do not allow these thoughts to overwhelm you with anxiety or stress in the belief that you are the only responsible sole for things to get done.